Speedworks Motorsport has picked up from where it left off at the end of last season in its first sportscar outing of 2018 – with a scene-stealing performance to race to the top step of the rostrum in the 24H Proto Series curtain-raiser in Dubai.
With its potent, 420bhp Ligier JS P3 sports prototype crewed by British single-seater convert Jack Butel, highly-rated 17-year-old Dutch Karting Champion Kay van Berlo and Russian Radical ace Konstantin Gugkaev, the team fancied its chances heading to Dubai Autodrome, and that optimism would prove to be well-founded.
Following a productive test session, the distinctively-liveried No.22 entry lined up first in-class and a superb second overall for the start of the weekend’s opening three-hour contest, and was comfortably leading the way when a driveshaft failure scuppered Speedworks’ bid for glory. A better fastest lap than the eventual winner served to underscore what might have been.
Undeterred, the plucky Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit bounced back in fine style in races two and three, battling from the rear of the grid to the podium and class victory in the first of them and replicating that result in the finale, with van Berlo and Butel posting a fastest lap apiece.
“It’s always enjoyable going to race in Dubai, and it was a very positive start to the year,” acknowledged Team Principal Christian Dick, whose squad is a regular race-winner in both sportscar and touring car circles. “The Ligier was quick and generally reliable, the Speedworks boys put in their usual stellar effort throughout and the three drivers bonded really well.
“Jack showed the benefits of having a year’s experience in the car under his belt, being fast and consistent straight out-of-the-box. He drove some great stints and engaged in a number of really close and entertaining tussles along the way. He has unquestionably taken a step forward this year, and the confidence he gained from his breakthrough victory in our final race of 2017 at Donington Park is very clear to see.
“Kay performed superbly for his first time in the car; he took to the Ligier like a duck to water, as if he had been driving it for months. To set a fastest lap on his debut with us was quite extraordinary, and he looks set for a very bright future indeed.
“Neither he nor Jack had previously been to the track, but they both spent time on our new state-of-the-art simulator back at Speedworks HQ before flying out to Dubai and that palpably paid off. Konstantin’s prior circuit knowledge was similarly a great boost to them, and he belied his comparative lack of experience to do a really solid job for us weekend-long. He was neat and tidy and did everything we asked of him, and he was a pleasure to work with – all three drivers were.
“Race one was looking really good until the driveshaft issue. The boys worked their socks off to replace it and get the Ligier back out again, but we were never going to be able to make up the ground we had lost in the time remaining. Still, it proved the pace was in the car and we duly converted that speed into silverware in races two and three, which was extremely satisfying.
“All-round, it was encouraging to pick up from where we left off at the end of 2017. We led all three races outright, and came away with two overall podiums and two class wins – just the sort of results that fill everybody in the team with a real sense of excitement and anticipation about what we can go forward to achieve over the coming months.”
Speedworks are planning a pre-season testing programme with the Ligier JS P3 in Portugal, followed by race outings in the ACO-endorsed LMP3 Cup Championship, Michelin Le Mans Cup and further 24H Series events.
Source. Russell Atkins Media/Photo. Zakir Munawer